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To say it is hard to be queer in Indonesia is a gross understatement. LGBTQI Indonesians encounter violence on a regular basis – from those around them, and increasingly, from the state itself. Yet this was the stage on which Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s poetry collection Sergius Seeks Bacchus made its debut, breaking new ground to become, in the words of another Indonesian poet Mikael Johani, ‘a queer pioneer’ on ‘an extremely heteronormative poetry scene’.
Sergius Seeks Bacchus is a heart-breaking yet humorous rumination on what it means to be in the minority on multiple levels – in terms of sexuality, but also, ethnicity and religion. Drawing on the experiences of fellow members of the queer community and especially on the poet’s life as an openly gay writer of Bataknese descent and Christian background, the collection furnishes readers with an alternative gospel, a book of bittersweet and tragicomic good news pieced together from the poet’s encounters with ridicule, persecution, loneliness, and also, happiness.
’The poems, though seemingly light-hearted, provide the reader room to delve deeper into many matters, both the tragic and comic aspects of humanity: sex, religion, and politics, even poetry itself. His greatest strength, however, lies in his sly humour – his ability to write poems without putting on poetic airs.’ – Eka Kurniawan
’His is a new and magical voice emerging in literature, yet one almost preternaturally wise, profoundly celebratory of the history and possibility of poetry.’ – Christos Tsiolkas
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